I’ve got good news.
School started up last week, and now that I’m teaching two classes, rather than trying to run an entire dysfunctional art department, my life has gotten much better.
Hard as is to believe, teaching is actually fun again.
How does that affect you? Well, it means you won’t have to put up with my whining and complaining each Friday. These columns might just get funny again, rather than being storehouses for my misery and distress.
Speaking of funny, did you hear that Donald Trump is taking a trip to Mexico today? Can you believe that’s actually happening? Just imagine it:
“Hey, Ivanka, get me a Piña Colada and make it snappy, OK?
“Sure thing Boss. I mean Dad.”
“You know what. Forget it. I changed my mind. Now I want a Corona.”
“OK. Corona it is. Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to have one of the assistants get it, because I’m kind of busy, you know, running your companies.”
“No. No. You do it. Nobody gets the beer cold like you do. Honestly, (to the room,) I don’t know how she does it. It’s like she has magic fingers, and as long as she hands me the beer, it’s so freakin’ cold.”
—Ivanka leaves room, returns with a Corona.
“What the hell is this? Where’s the lime? Lots of people are talking, and they all say that you can’t drink a Mexican beer without a lime.”
“Sorry, Dad. I’ll have someone get you a lime.”
“Limes. How weird are they? They’re really green on the outside, but not so green on the inside? How does that even work?”
“I don’t know, Dad. But it’s just fruit. Not nearly as important as going over our notes for today’s meeting with President Peña Nieto.”
“Peña Nieto? That sounds like Piña Colada. You know, I think I’d really like a Piña Colada. Ivanka, honey, run out and get me a Piña Colada, OK? And be quick about it. Somehow I have a beer in my hand, but I really want a Piña Colada.”
That’s the thing about visiting foreign countries: we go with all sorts of expectations, and so often they actually determine our experience. If you expect Mexico to be filled with rapists, and you’re suspicious of everyone you see, you likely won’t have such a good time on Spring Break in Cabo. (Or on your trip to meet the President.)
Or if you expect the American South, for example, to be mysterious and poetic, then you’re likely to have that kind of experience as well. Right?
I only ask having just put down “Not All,” a new book by Pascal Amoyel, published by Poursuite Editions in France. I’ve reviewed a few of their books in the past, enthusiastically, and recall they were all shot in Europe.
Not this one.
From what I gather, the French artist spent two months in the American South in the Spring of 2014, photographing away, and this book was the result. It’s a pretty simple narrative, all things considered, and we know how many photographers take a crack at depicting this photogenic region.
(Seriously, are all trees in the South strange and/or creepy, or just the ones that get photographed?)
The short version is that this book is nice, but not exceptional. As I flipped through the pages, I couldn’t help thinking this was a generic version of a place I’ve seen in books many times before. It is not compelling, though the pictures are certainly well-made-enough.
And then, I turned a page, and saw a photograph unlike any I’ve seen before. A decrepit, paint-stripped, white shotgun house, set against a couple of hedgerows, with a red brick chimney jutting into the blue sky. Normal enough, I suppose. But affixed to the clapboard siding is a sign that says “CHIROPRACTOR.”
Holy shit. I laughed so hard. What a picture.
If Walker Evans were alive today, he’d make that image.
I came down off my photo-high, and kept flipping away. The book was underwhelming again, until I came upon a picture of a woman’s slightly distended belly, and her very small pink bikini bottom. Strange angle. All tight.
Is it a woman? Or a girl? If it’s a girl, isn’t this picture really inappropriate? And if it’s a woman, is she pregnant? Or does she just have a little pot belly, like that weird French chick in “Pulp Fiction?”
The next photo, of a purple scarf spread over the green grass, makes for a cool little diptych.
But two stellar pictures do not constitute a great book.
This is one of those reviews where I like something about a book, and it spurs me to write, (always my chief criterion,) but I do wonder if it isn’t a good example of what happens when every photographer wants a book for each project.
Pascal, I appreciate you sending this along, and I mean no disrespect. But if you want to be a great artist, I think every picture in the book, or certainly 90% of them, needs to be as original and stellar as those two shots.
And of course, I’m speaking to all of you here, not just Pascal. The truth is we live in a world where some publishers make a lot of money each time you sign a contract. (To be clear, I’m not saying this about Poursuite, as I’ve found their other books to be really tight, and not overly-produced.)
But it’s the truth. If you really want a book, and are willing to pony up your own money, or hit up the “crowd” to pay for it, you can have a book.
But is that enough of a reason?
Last piece of advice, people: next time you’re hankering for a taste of the South, but you can’t afford the plane ticket, just hit up the video store, or Netflix, and rent “Hustle and Flow.” Because it’s hard out here for a pimp…
Bottom Line: Nice book about the South with 2 knockout pictures inside